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Theory of Knowledge
Essay on prescribed title
Word Count: 1587
Date: January 2008

[This essay scored 36/40 : an A grade. MF ]

“History is always on the move, slowly eroding today’s orthodoxy and making space for yesterday’s heresy.” Discuss the extent to which this claim applies to history and at least one other area of knowledge. In order to find out if the claim applies to the areas of knowledge history and chemistry I will break the question down in three parts. Firstly I ask if history and chemistry move. Secondly I question if it erodes today’s orthodoxy and finally I consider if yesterday’s heresy takes over. In my opinion the claim applies to some extent to history and to a great extent to chemistry.

Are history and chemistry always on the move?
Moves in history can have various causes: the discovery of new facts, a different focus of interest or a political shift. In the year 2005 a Bosnian archaeologist called Semir Osmanagic suspects there are pyramids in his homeland Bosnia and Herzegovina. Anthropologists say the Visoko valley already offers ample evidence of organized human settlements dating back 7000 years.[1] This discovery would change the entire European history. Something that was commonly accepted, that the first pyramids came from Egypt, has altered completely. Thus history is moving.

A counter argument to this could be that history just repeats itself and does not move at all. The Renaissance is a repetition of the Classical times, in which the work of ancient scholars was studied again. Painting, sculpture and architecture were influenced by the Latin and Greek culture, so that “paintings became more realistic and focused less often on religious topics.”[2] Furthermore, the name ‘rebirth’ was not given for nothing, it was a repetition. One might say that history is not always on the move, it just reiterates.

Scientist observe nature and try to explain what they see with the help of theories. The nature itself does not change, but the way they look at it is different. A paradigm is the idea of a prevailing theory or model, which is commonly accepted by a whole community. When a scientific revolution takes place, the paradigm changes, and with the paradigm all basic concepts of the science. If we look at paradigm changes of atomic models through time, we see that Dalton (1807) displayed atoms as a solid, indivisible ultimate particles of matter. In 1898 Thompson imagined an atom to be like ‘Plum Pudding’. Rutherford (1911) presented the ‘Planetary’ model, which shows electrons in finite orbits. In the present model, we imagine the electrons in orbitals having precise energies and diffuse spacial properties, often referred to as electron clouds.[3] The model of displaying atoms keeps changing and so does chemistry.

One might argue that chemistry is not always on the move, because it takes place when a researcher finds an anomaly and he is aware of it. Only then he will search for a possible explanation. If this anomaly can not be explained by the current paradigm, he has to come up with a new theory. Until the whole community is dissatisfied with the current paradigm, a crisis emerges, and new paradigm will be accepted.[4] This shows that history just moves in times of crisis. Is today’s orthodoxy eroded?

An aspect of Bosnian history that has struck me since coming here is that each ethnic group has it’s own version of the past. In Bosnia there are three main ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. Each of them blames the other for starting the Bosnian war from 1991 to 1995 and has their own story about who was the first victim of the war. My Croatian friend tells me that at first a man was killed in the Croatian town Čaplina. On the other hand my Bosniak friend says that the first fallen was a guest on a wedding in Sarajevo. However, my Serbian classmate claims that the war started because a Serb in Pale was murdered. The common prevailing history is eroded and has made...
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